From Hunger Mountain to Mountain Stage
by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., October 23, 2003) – Congratulations are due to the Hunger Mountain Boys. Last month, the old-time-styled, Berkshire country duo, featuring Kip Beacco of Monterey and Ted Weber of Great Barrington, entered the Mountain Stage NewSong Festival in Charleston, W. Va., and Weber walked away with the top prize for his original song, “Nashville, Don’t Touch My Country Music,” beating out 400 other entrants, including Beacco, who placed very respectfully in the top-40 semi-final round with his song, “My Darlin’, My Dear.”
As part of their reward for winning, the duo performed Weber’s song on the show, which will be aired during the week beginning November 21 on the 125 radio stations and 90 public TV stations that carry the program (including the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network in our region). They also joined all-star guests including Tim O’Brien, the Del McCoury Band, and Darrell Scott in the show-closer, “Who Will Sing for Me?”
The Hunger Mountain Boys specialize in the old-time, brother-style duet harmony singing of classic duos like the Monroe Brothers, the Stanley Brothers and the Louvin Brothers, as well as earlier string-band music. In addition to writing and singing, Weber, who played cornet in college jazz and classical groups, plays guitar and dobro. He also plays pedal-steel guitar with Mary and the Big Iron Skillet Band. Beacco, who also sings and writes, handles instrumental chores on fiddle, mandolin and guitar, and also performs with the Beartown Mountain Ramblers.
You can catch the Hunger Mountain Boys locally when they host their bimonthly “Old Time Mountain Music Show” at Club Helsinki on Mondays at 8, including this coming Monday. Admission is free.
Geoff Muldaur does Bix Beiderbecke
It’s no surprise that Geoff Muldaur would be obsessed with jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke, the 1920s trumpeter, composer and contemporary of Louis Armstrong who, like Muldaur, refused to accept limitations of genre, incorporating influences from Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky into his own playing and compositions.
The polymusically perverse Muldaur has always deftly jumped across borders of folk, blues and jazz in his 40-year career that has seen him work with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, as well as with then-wife Maria and other notables including Bonnie Raitt, Eric Von Schmidt and Jerry Garcia. He produced albums for Lenny Pickett and the Richard Greene String Quartet, composed for film and TV, and enjoyed some notoriety when Terry Gilliam featured his version of the title song, “Brazil,” in the film of that name.
In recent years, Muldaur – who returns to Club Helsinki (528-3394) on Sunday at 8 -- has been enjoying something of a comeback as a roots-music artist, with albums and concerts reigniting the interest of old fans and making new ones discovering Muldaur’s unique style blending pre-rock folk, blues, gospel and country music, rendered in his rootsy, quavery vocals and authentic guitar stylings that belie his New England upbringing and his Berklee College of Music background.
But Muldaur’s most recent CD is truly a labor of love. “Private Astronomy: A Vision of the Music of Bix Beiderbecke” (Edge Music), credited to Geoff Muldaur’s Futuristic Ensemble, pairs some of New York’s finest classical and jazz musicians with vocalists including Martha Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright III, and Muldaur himself on new chamber arrangements of five Beiderbecke piano pieces and other songs associated with the jazz legend.
Call the music organ-jazz or soul-jazz or jam-rock, the trio Vorcza, which performs at La Choza Cantina (448-6100) in Pittsfield on Saturday at 10, boasts an expansive range as heard on its explosive CD, “Maximalist” (Hat and Tie). The group also boasts an impressive resume. Keyboardist Ray Paczkowski plays with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio in the latter’s own band, and has performed with such downtown avatars as John Medeski, Lester Bowie, Cyro Baptista and Peter Apfelbaum. Drummer Gabe Jarrett comes by his last name by way of distinguished lineage – his father is pianist/composer Keith Jarrett – and he has been a member of the Jazz Mandolin Project and the Jazz Passengers. Bassist Robinson Morse was a member of Viperhouse, and has performed with Lester Bowie and Trey Anastasio. But more than all that, the music on “Maximalist” is swinging and dramatic, and both jazzier and more melodic than the run-of-the-mill, jam-band fare.
Two of America’s greatest country singers go up against each other in the Capital District on Sunday night, when Emmylou Harris performs at Albany’s Palace Theatre (518-465-4663) and Ralph Stanley headlines across the river at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (518-273-0038), on a bill that includes Iris Dement.
Speaking of great American roots-music artists, singer-songwriter and guitarist Chris Smither bookends the Berkshires this weekend with concerts celebrating the release of his terrific new CD, “Train Home,” at the Iron Horse in Northampton (413-586-8686) tonight and tomorrow at 7 and on Sunday at Caffe Lena (518-583-0022) in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at 7. And David Bromberg returns to the region with his big band for a show at the Egg (518-473-1845) in Albany tonight at 8:15, when he will also be joined by the Hudson Valley folk duo Jay Ungar and Molly Mason.
[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on October 24, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]
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